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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Luke 11:1–13. Mat. 6:9–13]

JESUS having on one occasion retired to a desert place to pray, one of His disciples said to Him: “Lord, teach us how to pray, as John also taught his disciples!” Then Jesus said to them: “When you pray, say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.”

He then said to them: “Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him’; and he from within should answer and say: ‘Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.’ Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you, for every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

“What father among you, if his son shall ask him for bread, will give him a stone! or if he ask a fish, will instead of a fish give him a scorpion? If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give the good spirit to them that ask him.

“Again, I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by My Father who is in heaven. For where there are two or three gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Prayer is an art which must be learnt and practised. Our Lord teaches this by showing us 1. for what we are to pray, and 2. how we are to pray. Jesus tells us what we are to pray for, in the Our Father; and in the same prayer He partly tells us how we are to pray, for by the very first words He teaches us that we should pray to God with the confidence of children, while the fifth petition reminds us of our sins, and, therefore, warns us to pray with deep humility. By His exhortations, similes and parables which we have just read our Lord urges us to pray 1. with perseverance; 2. with confidence; and 3. in common.

Perseverance in prayer and its necessity are taught us by the parable of the importunate friend, who though he presented his petition at a time most inconvenient to his friend, and therefore very unfavourable to his cause, got what he wanted, simply because he asked persistently. This example, taken from human life, was given by our Lord to show the necessity of persistence and perseverance in prayer. God is our best friend, and He will undoubtedly hearken to us if we pray without ceasing. The man in the parable at last granted his friend’s request, simply to be rid of his importunity: but is this the case with God? Certainly not! God hearkens to us out of pure love; but He often suffers us to plead for a long time in order that, by reason of our perseverance, we may become more worthy to receive what we ask for. Our prayers to God can never be inopportune, because He is ready at all times to hearken to us.

Confidence in prayer is urged on us by our Lord’s grand and distinct promise: “Every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Every one, therefore, without any exception, is heard when he asks for right things, in a right way. “Every real prayer, that is, every prayer which proceeds from the inward needs of the heart, and which is offered up to obtain what is really good and necessary, is heard by God. He is always ready to give us what we need, and only desires what is good for us” (Bisping). And if, sometimes, we do not receive that which we in our short-sightedness have asked for, God gives us something else instead, which it is better for us to have. Our Lord explains this in His simile of the child who asks his father for bread &c. If no earthly father, hearing and understanding his request, would be so cruel to his child as to give him something useless or hurtful instead of the thing for which he asks; how much less would our heavenly Father do such a thing. He will always listen to our prayer, and give us those things which conduce to our welfare.

Prayer in common is recommended by our Lord in these words: “If two of you shall consent upon earth concerning anything whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by My Father who is in heaven.” No matter, therefore, how few people meet to pray together, their united prayer will be heard. Household and family prayers; all general, public worship, and meetings of confraternities, guilds &c. &c., are pleasing to God.

The necessity of prayer. The words: ask! seek! knock! convey a command. We must, therefore, pray, because our Lord Jesus Christ has commanded us to do so.

APPLICATION. If you will examine what are the qualities of prayer, you will find that you have very seldom prayed well. Your prayers rarely come from your heart, being mostly lip-service. In order to pray with devotion you ought to meditate on the words which your lips utter. St. Elizabeth often took a whole hour to say one Our Father, weighing each single word in her heart. As she pronounced the word “Father”, she meditated on the goodness of God, and excited in her heart feelings of love towards Him. The word “our” made her remember that all men are the children of God, and ought to love one another. The word “heaven” awakened in her heart a longing desire for everlasting happiness, and she resolved to win heaven at any price. And so she went on to the end. You too might, sometimes, meditate in this sort of way on the words of the Our Father, which are so rich in meaning; and remember that one Our Father said with devotion is worth twenty said carelessly.








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